Attorney Zoraida Fernandez practices criminal defense and civil litigation. Zoraida understands that clients come to her when they are in crisis, whether it’s because they are facing criminal prosecution, are at risk of losing or have lost their jobs, or have otherwise been deprived of their civil rights and liberties. Her clients’ goals are of paramount concern and dictate the strategy and approach in each of her cases.Criminal Defense
In her criminal practice, Zoraida represents people accused of a wide range of crimes and in various proceedings in state and federal courts throughout the Commonwealth. Zoraida has prevented the issuance of criminal charges for clients at “show-cause” hearings before clerk magistrates, helping them avoid having any criminal charges on their record. She has avoided the issuance of criminal complaints against her clients involving misdemeanor charges, like assault and battery and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and more serious felony charges, like malicious destruction of property. She has also advised clients involved in criminal activity and helped them avoid any police involvement or criminal prosecution.
Zoraida also represents people facing criminal charges in court and fights hard to achieve results consistent with the client’s priorities, whether it’s to take the case to trial, or to resolve the matter more quickly through agreement. For instance, she recently helped a client secure a dismissal of charges of assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. If there is a conviction, Zoraida has been instrumental in obtaining favorable sentences for clients, including one facing serious felony charges of conspiracy and extortion in federal court, despite his being classified a career offender.
In addition to her criminal trial practice, Zoraida helps clients deal with the consequences of criminal charges and convictions. She has helped clients seal arrests, dismissed charges, and convictions, making these inaccessible by the public, including many prospective employers. Zoraida also represents people seeking to challenge criminal convictions (particularly where there are immigration consequences involved), people who have been accused of violating the terms of their probation, and clients who seek early termination of probationary terms.University Discipline
Zoraida represents students accused of academic and sexual misconduct on college campuses. Although these proceedings are not court cases, the potential consequences for college students, e.g., expulsion, can be devastating and long lasting. Sexual misconduct, or Title IX, cases require careful analysis because of the possible criminal implications. Zoraida uses her criminal defense experience to develop a strategy, present innovative factual and legal theories, and protect her clients in case of criminal prosecution.
Academic misconduct cases can also have similarly life-changing consequences, which is why Zoraida approaches these cases with the same seriousness and thoroughness. In one case, she represented a law student who had been expelled for cheating on an exam. She and a team of other firm lawyers presented an innovative legal theory that resulted in the student returning to law school and graduating.Employment Law and Other Civil Disputes
Zoraida’s civil practice includes litigation and counseling of employees who come to her when their livelihoods are at stake. Her clients have included employees facing gender and race discrimination, and retaliation, and she also helps people struggling with a workplace that subjects them to sexual harassment, discrimination, or are otherwise being deprived of their right to a discrimination-free work environment.
Some of these representations have led her to litigate at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”), while others have led to settlement negotiations, including through mediation. Recently, she helped negotiate a six-figure monetary settlement for a woman who worked in a male-dominated department in a state agency and who had, for years, struggled with discriminatory practices involving her pay, job duties, promotions, and discipline, and who was eventually terminated because of her vocal opposition to these practices.
Zoraida’s clients have also included those involved in other civil disputes, such as personal injury suits and family law matters. She has helped clients secure successful settlements that appropriately compensated them for their injuries and medical expenses resulting from automobile and other accidents.Prior Experience
Prior to joining Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, Zoraida worked with the Innocence Project of Minnesota (IPMN). With IPMN, she worked with a coalition of prosecutors, defense attorneys, state crime labs, and the trial courts in conducting a comprehensive review of state homicide and criminal sexual conduct convictions from 1981 to 1999 to determine whether any innocent defendants could be exonerated through current DNA testing technology. Before joining IPMN, Zoraida clerked for the Honorable Julian Abele Cook, Jr. in the Eastern District of Michigan. While in law school, Zoraida represented children and parents in the child welfare system as part of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic as well as low-income clients in family law matters at Essex-Newark Legal Services in Newark, New Jersey. Zoraida received the Dean’s Public Interest Fellowship to work at the Texas Civil Rights Project, where she helped Texas residents vindicate their federal and state civil rights.
Zoraida is a native Spanish speaker.
J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 2008
B.A., Brown University, 2003
State of California
U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts
Judge Julian Abele Cook, Jr., U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, 2008 - 2010
Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association
Boston Bar Association
Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Women's Bar Association